Time and the Conways, National Theatre, London

2.00

An unfortunate case of déjà vu

The time travels of a modern master like Robert Lepage are light years away from the creaky old family sagas of J B Priestley, whose application of the once fashionable, now forgotten theories of J W Dunne and P D Ouspensky doggedly made theatrical frissons out of synchronicity and déjà vu.

I guess the director Rupert Goold fancied doing a Lepage on old J B. But Lepage is culturally esoteric, while "honest Jack" Priestley was a son of his Yorkshire soil, and it's that crucial element that's gone missing in Goold's adventurous but flawed revival of Time and the Conways, a 1937 charade – which is, literally, how the play begins – of disintegrating optimism between the wars.

Take the luminescent Francesca Annis as the matriarch. I'm not necessarily saying that I'd prefer to see Patricia Routledge in the role, but Annis's Mrs Conway, presiding over a series of setbacks in Act Two that lead to proposals to sell off the family properties, veers towards Chekhovian chutzpah, not Yorkshire pragmatism.

And you'd also have to say that the way this woman has kept her figure after giving birth six times is nothing short of miraculous. She's lost her husband, though, along with her accent, while her children are all building hopes in a brave new world as the curtain rises – or rather splits open like a camera shutter – on a scene of merriment.

The year is 1919, and it's Kay's twenty-first birthday. The same party continues where it left off in the third act, with a sort of protective film of over-informed nostalgia, after a second act fast-forwarded to 1938. Here, it's Kay's fortieth birthday, the large room is stripped bare, the bright reds have mutated into dull browns, the youngest child has died, and one of the girls is married no longer.

Another daughter, tartly played by Fenella Woolgar, has dwindled from public idealism into private education, and Kay herself has swapped novel-writing plans for interviewing celebrities in the local rag.

There are two ways of tackling the play's challenge. The obvious method is to suggest the poignancy of growing old in overlapping youth, which is what happened at the Old Vic 20 years ago when Joan Plowright played alongside two of her own daughters in her son's production on a stage associated with her husband, Laurence Olivier.

The other, adopted by Goold and, especially, Hattie Morahan as the strangely possessed Kay, is to play up the spookiness of the time theories as evidence of cosmic arrangements beyond our understanding, with muzzy video projections and hyperventilated acting.

In 1992, Stephen Daldry directed Priestley's An Inspector Calls on this same stage; it struck a timeless chord, rooted in a recognisable society, that reverberates still, a trick that proves beyond Goold and his team but which is less their fault than the play's.

To 27 July (020 7452 3000; www.national theatre.org.uk)

Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week